How to Determine the Sex of a Chicken

Three Methods:Using Color & CharacteristicsUsing Vent SexingUsing Feather Sexing

Whether you raise chickens or just like to know random things about livestock (who doesn't?!), this article can help you out next time you need to know the gender of a chicken.

Method 1
Using Color & Characteristics

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    Look at their down color. Easily enough, often a chick's down color will tell you whether it's male or female. Of course, it depends on the type of chicken you're raising -- if they're Black-Breasted Red, Light Brown, or Silver Duckwing, it'll be simple. The males have only two colors down their backs and a dot on the crown of their head; females have three colors and they all run up and down their backs.
    • Barred Plymouth Rocks can produce chicks that are easy to sex at hatching (they're black with yellow or white spots). With this breed, the males have yellow spots on their heads. For the New Hampshire or Buff Orpington types, the male chicks will have off-white streaks on their wings while the females will often have brown lines down their backs and/or dark spots on their heads.[1]
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    Look at their feathers. Female chicks (pullets) get their feathers quite quickly -- in the first week or so. Cockerels' feather growth doesn't go nearly as quickly. However, at 2-3 months you will see the long and pointed hackle feathers developing on the males.
    • The cockerels will start to develop combs at around 1 1/2 months in most breeds. It will start to redden in the males; the females will still be yellow.
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    Look at their size. Cockerels are usually bigger by just a few weeks old. What's more, cockerels (the males) have angular (and often larger) heads, while the pullets have smaller, round ones.
    • Cockerels usually have longer legs, too (look for spur development).
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    Consider temperament. Go into your hen house and sneeze. The cockerels will probably stay put and the pullets will scatter! Talk about reinforcing gender norms, huh?[2]

Method 2
Using Vent Sexing

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    Hire a chick sexer for younger chickens. These people are trained to be able to tell the sex of chickens from a very young age. This is the most reliable method.
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    Have the chick sexer use vent sexing. This requires him/her to squeeze the feces out of the chick in order to open the anal vent and look for a "bump." If this bump is present, then the chick is most likely male. [3]
    • This guarantees an accuracy of 90-95%. You'll still get one or two males per bunch.[2]
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    If hiring a professional isn't an option, take a look yourself. But note that this is very difficult and this is a paid profession for a reason. You may actually be doing it correctly and not be able to determine for yourself as well.
    • Again, vent sexing is hard and takes practice. You must squeeze the chicks stomach very lightly -- make sure you don't hurt the chick -- but hard enough to make him or her defecate. As it defecates, you should see either a little pimple-like protrusion or nothing -- if there's a pimple, it's a cockerel; if there's nothing, it's a pullet.
    • For specific instructions: Pick up the chick with your left hand with its head between your 3rd and 4th fingers, legs between 4th and 5th. Rump the ducktails up. Your left thumb will push on the lower abdomen, spreading the vent. Press your left thumb on the left edge of the vent up and over so that interior border is turned towards the chick's back. Ready your right thumb and forefinger to pinch the back right edge of the vent. Open the vent. The interior border is rolled back and genitalia is exposed. See anything? If you do, 'tis a male.[4] (Or a very masculine female.)

Method 3
Using Feather Sexing

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    Hire a chick sexer. You'll need a pro -- and this method is only good for certain breeds. Get someone with some experience. Did you know there's even a worldwide Chicken Sexing Competition?[5]
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    Have the chicken sexer use feather sexing. He/She can use this method to look at feather lengths on chicks and determine their sex that way. It is less common, as it is only effective if the feather differences have been genetically selected for. [6]
    • If you are considering feather sexing, do this immediately. By about 2 weeks, cockerels have caught up to their female counterparts in feather length and volume.


  • Roosters can also be distinguished by larger, flashier tail feathers and the classic "cock-a-doodle doo" noise.
  • There is such a thing as sex-linking. If you order a batch of chicks that are sex-linked, a specific color of chick correlates with a certain sex. It's the only way to be absolutely positive of the sex of your chick.[2]
  • Watch them grow and look at the red bumps on their head. If it's not there it's most likely a female. If a red bump is there, it's most likely a male.

Article Info

Categories: Chickens